Reaction: England hoping to blow hot in the Dublin cold

Only time will tell how effective England’s warm-weather training camp in Portugal will be to prepare them for Dublin.

Only time will tell how effective England’s warm-weather training camp in Portugal will be to prepare them for Dublin.

But what is beyond doubt is that the weather, and their reception, will be far from warm this Saturday night at the Aviva Stadium.

Starts to a Guinness Six Nations simply don’t come any harder.

Under Joe Schmidt, Ireland have never lost at home in the Championship and are the defending Grand Slam champions.

But Eddie Jones hopes he has an ace up his sleeve – by the name of Manu Tuilagi.


2014 was the last time Tuilagi started a game for his country, indeed you have to go back even further to 2013 for his last start in this Championship.

But Ben Te’o’s injury has opened the door and now it is Tuilagi’s turn to walk through it.

An exciting cameo off the bench against Australia in the autumn is all that England fans have had to get excited about.

But the Leicester Tiger, who will wear No.12 despite Jones himself saying he is an outside centre, will look to dovetail with Henry Slade in midfield.

Slade has been in fine form for Exeter this season but is due a big outing in the Red Rose jersey.


And with Owen Farrell pulling the strings at No.10 – it will be a fascinating match-up against the class of Garry Ringrose and the power of Bundee Aki.

On selecting Manu Tuilagi, Jones said: “I just felt for this game the best option was to play Owen Farrell at 10 and Manu as a like-for-like replacement for Ben Te’o.

“Manu has impressed us at the training camp, and is right to play.”


Mako and Billy Vunipola have not started for England since the summer tour to South Africa.

But the Saracens duo are back in tandem on Saturday, and that could make the world of difference for Jones.

Mako has been in sublime form of late, one of the key players for Sarries in their unbeaten start to the European campaign.

But it is Billy who holds the key for this England team.

His power from the base of the scrum epitomises the hard edge Jones wants his England pack to have.

And after some struggles with injury, the No.8 is working his way back to full form and fitness.

“It is nice to have Mako and Billy back. Mako is obviously a world-class loosehead.

We missed him during the autumn but he has come back in good nick and really committed to be the best he can be.

The Saracens link is also a pivotal one. George Kruis’ lineout ability earns him a spot alongside Maro Itoje and with Jamie George as well, the forward pack is made up of five of Mark McCall’s men.


Jones admitted that Mike Brown was under serious consideration for the full-back berth in what is sure to be an aerial assault from the Irish this weekend.

But in the end he kept faith with Elliot Daly – the man who has worn No.15 for the last seven games in a row.

Daly has not quite nailed down the role yet, and has shown a weakness under the high ball that needs addressing this weekend.

His form of late for Wasps has not been his best, but in full flow he could hold the key in what is sure to be a tightly-fought encounter.

His try against Australia this autumn was a reminder of how he can move through the gears when in space and his siege gun of a left foot could also prove vital if the game gets close.

The back three is becoming an area of real strength for Jones, Chris Ashton has to settle for a bench spot with Jack Nowell and Jonny May to start.

When Anthony Watson returns, and with Joe Cokanasiga almost at full strength again – the options will have Jones salivating.


The back row sees the return of the aforementioned Billy Vunipola to the No.8 jersey.

But either side of him are two flankers who will both be making their Guinness Six Nations debuts – Mark Wilson and Tom Curry.

The duo are at the opposite ends of the experience scale however, Curry is only 20 while Wilson will turn 30 this year.

But both have shown they belong at this level, Curry in South Africa last summer with a handful of head-turning performances before injury struck, and Wilson this autumn when his versatility was to the fore.

It was at No.8 Wilson stepped in for England this autumn, and also wore the No.7 jersey against Japan. But blindside is his best position and in a game like this, he will need to be at his very best.

Curry meanwhile has proven against the Springboks he can be a real breakdown nuisance, but there is a real difference between a summer Test on the hard ground of the veld and the slugfest in the Dublin wind and rain that is expected this weekend.

Sam Underhill’s injury means the jersey is Curry’s to lose this Championship – but he will want to cement it for himself rather than keep it on loan.


From No.1 to No.23 – Jones now has a side packed with power and also experience.

The head coach has long made clear the importance of his replacements – or finishers – as he calls them.

And with George Ford, Chris Ashton and Courtney Lawes waiting in the wings, they are sure to have an impact.

Indeed, if you want an idea of how strong this squad is you only have to look at the players not cracking the matchday squad: Joe Launchbury, Mike Brown and Danny Care have all been stood down.

Ford is sure to come on and make a difference as he did in the autumn, which could see the Ford-Farrell-Tuilagi axis return while Ashton is a finisher like no other.

Throw in the returning Ellis Genge’s power along with Nathan Hughes and the impact is clear to see.

Not to mention a potential debut for scrum-half Dan Robson if he gets the nod: “He’s done well in club rugby for a long period of time,” Jones said.

“And he’s come into the squad and fitted in well. He is communicating well with the players and really deserves his opportunity.”